Michigan has had a few good running backs during the Jim Harbaugh era, but only one has reached 1,000 yards rushing in a season, and none have went on to be starting backs in the NFL.
The top six running backs of the Harbaugh era are ranked as follows:
6. Zach Charbonnet (2019-2020)
Four-star recruit (No. 46 overall), No. 4 RB in 2019 class
Charbonnet’s career at Michigan did not go as planned. The former LA Times High School Player of the Year had a productive 2019 season at Michigan where he rushed for 726 yards and 11 TDs, but he only rushed for just 124 yards in 5 games in 2020 and was passed on the depth chart by Hassan Haskins. Charbonnet transferred to UCLA and is now close to home.
5. Hassan Haskins (2019-present)
Three-star recruit (No. 975 overall), No. 49 RB in 2018 class
Haskins was not a highly touted recruit, but his play at Michigan has been impressive so far. Haskins has shown a good balance of physicality and a play-making ability to make defenders miss in the open field. Haskins is primed to be RB No. 1 in 2021, and how he produces will greatly impact Michigan’s win-loss record. Haskins has rushed for 997 yards and 10 TDs in his two years at Michigan.
4. Ty Issac (2015-2017)
Transfer from USC
Issac came to Michigan from USC. While he had some productivity for Michigan, Issac’s career never developed into the high expectations that were thrown his way. He battled injuries but was productive when healthy. Issac rushed for 1,170 yards and 8 TDs at Michigan.
3. Chris Evans (2016-2020)
Four-star recruit (No. 338 overall prospect)
Evans is as versatile as they come, and is now proving that as a rookie in mini-camp for the Cincinnati Bengals. Evans was a pass-catching specialist with elusiveness and steady speed in the open field. Evans rushed for 1,795 yards, 15 TDs, while also hauling in 49 receptions for 2 TDs. Evans missed a season due to academic issues, but earned his way back onto the team — now he’s an NFL player. It’s a good story for Evans.
2. De’Veon Smith (2013-2016)
Four-star recruit (No. 2018 overall prospect), No. 16 RB in 2013 class
When it comes to brute force, breaking tackles, and throwing defenders around, no Michigan running back has been more physical during the Harbaugh era than Smith. Smith rushed for 2,235 yards and 22 TDs during his Michigan career.
1. Karan Higdon (2015-2018)
Three-star recruit (No. 484 overall prospect), No. 40 RB in 2015 class
Higdon was the most productive running back of the Harbaugh era to this point, amassing 2,616 yards and 27 TDs. Higdon’s best season came in 2018 when he rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs. Gaining over 1,000 yards in a season was an important goal for Higdon and it certainly fueled his determination. Higdon was a leader throughout his time at Michigan and will be remembered as someone who tried his damndest to get Michigan victories.